Xave Gregorio – Philstar.com, April 5, 2022
MANILA, Philippines — House hearings are being sought over an interview with convicted kidnapper Jovito Palparan Jr. aired on Sonshine Media Network International, which lawmakers said may have violated rules on the activities of inmates.
Reps. Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna) filed House Resolution No. 2546 on Monday asking the chamber’s human rights panel to investigate the interview with Palparan, who is serving his sentence at the New Bilibid Prison.
Hearings into possible irregularities in the Bureau of Corrections allowing the interview are unlikely at the House, where the administration maintains a supermajority. Even if members were inclined to investigate, most lawmakers are focused on the campaign for the May elections.
“The SMNI interview with Palparan reveals a clear double standard on the treatment of persons deprived of liberty and presents possible violations of the rules regarding the conduct of interview and other activities of inmates, especially with those convicted of gross human rights violations,” the Bayan Muna lawmakers said.
Palparan was interviewed by Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy in a program aired on SMNI and shared by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict on its official Facebook page.
Badoy, who is also a spokesperson for the NTF-ELCAC, said the interview was to “vindicate” Palparan, whose conviction she claimed to be founded on “trumped up charges.”
The Malolos Regional Trial Court found Palparan guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in the disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006.
The mothers of Cadapan and Empeño condemned the interview, calling it “a cheap, desperate attempt to vindicate criminals and rights violators.”
BuCor: Request was made at the bureau level
As the Department of Justice said it will investigate how the interview happened, Bureau of Corrections spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag claimed that it did not violate any rules.
“The request was sent just to the level of the BuCor. Our legal department studied the request extensively and we found that this does not violate any rules,” Chaclag told The STAR in Filipino.
But the Bayan Muna lawmakers said, citing the March 2000 BuCor operations manual, that a request for interview with an NBP inmate requires the recommendation of the penal institution’s director and approval of the justice secretary.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ and the court that convicted Palparan did not receive any request or permission for the interview.
Lawmakers also said that the BuCor manual provides that a request for an interview may be denied if the inmate has a pending criminal case. Palparan is still facing a kidnapping case before a Malolos court.
“The highly condemnable red-tagging interview makes a mockery of the country’s justice and penal system and should rightly be subjected to a thorough and impartial probe to prevent further excesses and violations,” they said.